The why of innovation and the role of communications

Innovation has been the buzzword for a while now in all business contexts and we hear it ever so often. It’s also one of those words that needs clarity in terms of what and how it can be leveraged for business use.

Let’s first understand what Innovation is and means. The Business Dictionary defines Innovation as

The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

I remember sitting in an innovation training session and this was being delivered by Evam Training Sideways a couple of years ago and they made us sit on the floor in a circle and passed around a water bottle asking us new ways of using it and what we could do with it other than the primary premise it was built for. They then brought in the business context and built in the narrative of how to build innovation into our thinking and behaviour and implement it at work. It was an experiential learning process and I learnt a few things about innovation:

  • Innovation isn’t about one idea or just the process of ideating
  • It is a mindset and a culture that must be built and invested in
  • Innovation is execution and implementation
  • Innovation is more than improvement
  • Innovation is thinking out of the box and off the regular track
  • Anyone can be taught to innovate
  • An invention when it adds value or solves a problem becomes innovation
  • Innovation is an infinite loop and does not end with the invention
  • Investing in innovation doesn’t always yield results
  • Innovation isn’t necessarily always linked to technology
  • Innovation could be in relation to either a product or a service
  • Innovation is not restricted to a size of company and can be applied across the board
  • Innovation can’t be a department or person, it is a collective consciousness
  • Innovation doesn’t always mean doing something new
  • Innovation doesn’t essentially come at a cost and need not be expensive
  • Innovation shouldn’t be restricted to creative roles
  • A streak of inspiration doesn’t mean it will result in innovation
  • Innovation must be sustained across all business journeys
  • Innovation isn’t always about breakthroughs
  • No two innovations are the same
  • All innovation comes with a certain amount of risk

What can we as communicators do to be innovative? What can we do to encourage a culture of innovation and what can innovation do for us?

With technology and innovation changing the entire marketing landscape and changing the way we understand our customers and market to them, it’s time we caught up and disrupted our own space.

While there is innovation and examples of some fantastic work, its few and far between in our immediate space of functioning. We need to see what we can do to make innovation a way of life for us as we go about business as usual. We need to also marry technological innovation with innovative thinking across practices.

The communications world has changed and has in a lot of ways provided a landscape of opportunities for innovation. The basic premise of all innovation is communication and without communication, innovation cannot be nurtured. So communicators play a big role in shaping innovation and nurturing it within their organisations.

Here’s how we can incorporate innovation into communications:

  • Create a platform for conversations, brainstorming and innovation
  • Share stories and learnings
  • Diversity and inclusion lead to creating an innovative environment, leverage your diversity
  • Encourage and empower co-working and co-development
  • Context and environment are crucial for innovation, so it’s good to invest in building it
  • Listen, listen, listen – open and expand your mind to learning
  • Get the teams to go out and take part in activities outside work
  • Get people from different teams involved in the planning process and leverage cross-team relationships
  • Innovate in both outside in and inside out forms
  • Put clients, customers and all stakeholders at the centre of your innovation
  • Leverage technology to innovate
  • Use the leadership as a sounding board
  • Innovate with tools and channels and look at communications strategically to innovate
  • Innovation doesn’t mean new always, it’s good to look at old ways and renew them
  • Be daring or try new avenues with content and structures
  • Build simple measurement tools to track and manage communications
  • Read and absorb content that isn’t directly related to your area of work
  • The idea is to experiment and see what works well for you and the organisation

When I think about innovation, I think about a quote from Tome Peters:

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is in the doing something else. You must take pot shots at today’s star before you are mimicked. Today’s radiantly blooming flowers are tomorrow’s mulch. Don’t forget that for a moment. But don’t think about it too long, either.”

For more conversations around Innovation (if you are an in-house communications professional), attend the Innovation First Communication Conclave in Gurgaon on Thursday, March 7th, 2019.

Shreya Krishnan
Vice President - Marketing and Communications at Aon India Insurance Brokers
Shreya is a CSR Specialist and Corporate Grooming Consultant. Her interests lie in Activism, Dance, Theatre, Poetry, Blogging, Modelling, Acting. She considers herself an Earth Warrior and is an Event Anchor and Trainer. She is a Pageant Winner and public speaker.

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